One in 1,558,000

If you graduated from College with a Bachelor’s degree in 2011, the U.S. Department of Education would like you to know that you are one of 1,558,000 who did the same thing. How ya like dem odds? What are you doing to make yourself stand out as you take the first step in your career? How are you differentiating your skills, experiences, value proposition? Why would they hire you?

myFootpath.com, might be an interesting resource for you: “[providing] you with thoughts, advice, and experience on how best to find your footpath, and navigate all the twists and turns in the journey we call ‘life’.” Career decisions right out of school are challenging and myFootpath.com might just give you a framework for them. One of their writers interviewed me a couple of weeks ago for a blog series with “advice and a little bit of good news to recent and soon-to-be grads looking for their first job out of college.” I’m sharing Part II of that series here just to spread the love a bit. Who knows if you know of someone faced with the (daunting) task of finding a job right now with a newly minted degree. If you do, share the post…and point them to myFootpath.com.

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Finding Your First Job out of College Part II: Be the Applicant Employers are Looking For

This is part two in a series of three blog posts that speak with human resources expert Charles Judy, the Global Director of HR Strategic Development and Operations for Navigant Consulting, Inc. In these posts, Mr. Judy offers advice and a little bit of good news to recent and soon-to-be grads looking for their first job out of college. In this section, we’ll investigate how to write a resume, talk about nailing the job interview, and look at real-world experience versus graduate school in the eyes of recruiters.

How to Make Your Resume Stand Out to Employers

In our last installment, we discussed some degrees that are among the most useful in the current employment climate. Regardless of what it says on your diploma, however, you can still make yourself an attractive candidate to interviewers by how you present yourself on your resume and during interviews.

“By and large, particularly for undergrads, the ability to demonstrate unique experiences on your resume is crucial to making it to the next step. Your GPA, your major, and your university: these are all interesting, but they’re first-line filters. The next step is whether you can make your resume resonate with the recruiter who is looking for things that make you uniquely capable.”

Did you spend a semester abroad? Were you the editor of a specialty campus magazine? Were you an officer of a student organization? Did you tutor international students in English? Try to think of things you’ve done that are going to make you stick out among the hundreds—and perhaps thousands—of resumes companies are going to have to go through. You never know: the person reading your resume might have been captain of the debate team too.

How to Nail the Interview

Once you’ve made it through the meat grinder of the resume selection process and you’re called in for the interview, you’ve earned your best opportunity to differentiate yourself from your competitors. You’ve got to strive to present yourself in the best possible light during the brief opportunity you have in front of a hiring manager or HR representative. You’re not just selling your grades or your experience, you’ve got the chance to convince them that you’re the person for the job.

“The most challenging thing about recruiting is the fact that what a candidate looks like on paper is often completely different than the person who ends up sitting across the table in an interview. How they look professionally, how they carry themselves, how they articulate their experiences and interests: these all come out in the interview. Most importantly, however, is how they demonstrate their level of confidence. It’s easy to overlook an otherwise-qualified candidate that just can’t convey that confidence and maturity,” Mr. Judy says.

“We’re really trying to figure out if campus recruits have the raw materials for the job. They may not have all the experience, but do they have the ability to make those experiences? Can I put this person in front of a client or customer and will they fit with other employees? These things are impossible to convey in a resume—and hard enough to gauge in an interview—but in a highly competitive job market, any advantage candidates can create for themselves will make a world of difference.”

Real World Experience Versus Graduate School

It’s an age-old question: do you keep fighting against a super-competitive job market, or return to school for a graduate degree? When it comes to deciding whether to go back to school, there’s no measurable data suggesting that one path is better than another. The job market may improve greatly by the time you finish—or it might get worse. Are you better off with another degree on your resume, or a couple years’ of real-world experience?

“There are some fields that won’t consider a candidate without an MBA, but I believe those are getting fewer and farther between. In my personal experience, an MBA is nice to have, and I will always give credence to a candidate with one (particularly from a top program), but rarely will that MBA alone trump the weight I’ll give to really good field experience,” Mr. Judy explains.

“For some organizations and in certain industries, two years of real world experience will outmatch an MBA any day—but there’s a difference between experience in a job that’s really challenging in a field you hope to pursue, versus taking a job somewhere just to earn a paycheck.”

So if you can find a job in an area in which you’re looking to establish a career—not just filing papers and answering telephones—it may be more beneficial to you than adding a few more letters after your name. If you can’t find a worthwhile job, then you may want to consider graduate school. It’s really up to your career goals, your specific industry, and what feels best for you.

Original Post Written By: Nate Abbott, a graduate student and a writer for myFootpath
Attribution and Copyright for Original Post: myFootpath
Image Credit: angela larose

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